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December 10, 2003Status quo rocks. America temporarily adopted a new anthem this morning as its ambassador David A. Gross reacted to the new diluted declaration of principles, upon which all negotiations at the World Summit will be based.
He sounded, to the untrained ear, like the chorus of the rock band Status Quo's Rockin' All Over the World. To paraphrase the ambassador: "I like it, I like it, I like it, I like it, I la-la-la like it."
Whether Mr Gross is a fan of Rick Parfitt remains unclear, but he is certainly in favour of the status quo (ie the power to control the future of the internet lies almost exclusively in American hands).
The failure of the new Draft Declaration of Principles, published at the eleventh hour last weekend, to address the issue of who governs the internet has made him very happy indeed.
"These are important documents, although they are not legally binding," Mr Gross noted with some satisfaction at the American press briefing. "They are important expressions of political will."
The ambassador was responding to a question on whether the US would renege on any agreement that was made in Geneva (as it did by withdrawing unilaterally from the Kyoto agreement on climate control, for example).
His answer was deft. While not actually saying the World Summit was a waste of time, he pointed out that the US was not bound to do anything decided by other governments at Geneva. America is listening, but more in the manner that a chiropodist listens to his bunion-afflicted patient than a chairman listens to his shareholders.
"It would be incorrect to see a political summit as a way to decide technological issues," he added with a diplomatic boot in the teeth to those who would like to see states have a say in the future of the internet. "A summit like this is [designed] to draw attention at the highest political level."
In any case, when it comes to the resolutions made at this conference, America has little to fear in terms of regulation of the internet. Thanks to a political stand-off at pre-summit meetings, that topic is off the agenda until the Tunis conference in 2005.
And what of the surprisingly low turnout of the largest, most technologically literate country in the world? What does the fact that America sent the same number of government officials as Gabon, and fewer journalists than Bangladesh, say about America's commitment to the World Summit?
"I don't think it says anything about our commitment," Mr Gross told Daily Summit. "Unlike other conferences where you have to be part of a delegation to participate, that is not the case here. If you walk around the conference centre I expect you'll find as many Americans here as any other nationality."
America is, Mr Gross seemed to be saying, rocking all over the world.